for saxophone and chamber orchestra
Duration: 20 min.
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The Saxophone Concerto op. 14, written for Wonki Lee, is a demanding work that exploits the technical abilities of the Saxophone to its full potential. After immigrating from Israel and living in the United States for several years, I found myself wanting to reconnect with Jewish traditions and culture, and in the concerto I incorporated a number of elements from Jewish music with scales and rhythms derived from Jazz. The Alto Saxophone is a great solo instrument; it can play quick passages with great ease and virtuosity. Additionally, the clarinet mouthpiece used in Klezmer music is similar to the Saxophone mouthpiece, and in the extreme altissimo range the tone of the alto saxophone sounds is similar to that of a Klezmer clarinet. The concerto continues a tradition of Jewish concert music going back to the early 20th century, and the musical language of the concerto continues this tradition, whose prominent composers include Ernst Bloch, Paul Ben-Haim and Kurt Weill.
The concerto is written in four movements, which makes it closer in structure to a symphony than a traditional concerto. The first movement starts with a strong arpeggiated chord with both major and minor thirds. This statement becomes a motto, or a guiding theme, returning later in the third and fourth movement. The second movement is a scherzo on a sardonic theme with virtuosic scales and runs for both the saxophonist and the orchestra. The third movement is titled “Piyyut”, which is a Jewish liturgical poem. It is based on the piyyut “Na’im Zemirot”, which is recited at synagogue during the Shabbat service. The final movement continues without a break with a polyphonic theme, or fugatto. This theme is developed throughout the final movement, gaining momentum as it is passed between soloist and orchestra. After a rigorous development, the motto that opened the first movement suddenly reappears. After coming back full circle to the original theme, the fugatto returns and the concerto comes to an end with a triumphant resolution.
The concerto was written during the summer of 2013 under guidance from Susan Botti and Samuel Adler. It was first performed at a composition recital at Manhattan School Of Music on December 7th, 2013, with Wonki Lee playing alto saxophone and Jonatan Spandorf conducting.